Getting Started with Community Outreach
Whether you want to educate others, build relationships or seek endorsements, outreach to specific communities is an integral part of building political will supporting the Energy Innovation Act.
What is community outreach?
You can engage with a wide variety of organizations. Almost all organizations find CCL relevant because advocacy for the Energy Innovation Act affects many aspects of the economy and every person in the United States.
Approaching organizations is different from approaching members of Congress. In our meetings and dealings with members, we ask each member of Congress to do something specific for us. However, with organizations, sometimes our goal is just getting to know a group, and helping them to know us.
Checking the Grasstops Engagement Tracker
Before reaching out to a group, always check the Grasstops Engagement Tracker. Often, someone has already initiated some sort of conversation with the group or person you are thinking about contacting. Duplicating efforts wastes time and complicates relationships. You may even harm a relationship if we appear undisciplined or unorganized. Reach out to the person listed as owning the relationship (delegate) and ask them how actively engaged they are with the organization and if they are okay with you reaching out.
If you run into problems, contact the Endorsers Help Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, National CCL works with other national organizations in D.C. and likely has a relationship currently (Sierra Club, EDF, Nature Conservancy, etc.). If you check the Grasstops Engagement Tracker and see that a national organization has Stephanie Doyle as the delegate, there is currently a relationship at the national level, and you shouldn’t initiate contacting that organization until you’ve spoken with Stephanie at email@example.com. But you should feel free to work with any local chapters in your area.
A lot of big organizations have local chapters that are far more likely to be willing to hear you out than the National office. Working our policy up the ladder has proven to be successful in the past. Get multiple local groups and people talking and liking our policy, and they will advocate it to people higher up. It tends to work better for someone within the organization you are working with to speak to their own colleagues about an idea they like rather than someone from outside.
Respect CCL’s Nonpartisan Value
CCL occupies a unique niche within the world of advocacy. As nonpartisan, we have credit with both sides of the political spectrum. But this also makes it hard sometimes for us to support other organizations’ work since we don’t want to appear to lean one way or the other. We work with everyone, and we want to maintain that principle as much as possible. Sometimes that means not having CCL National as a sponsor for something, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t partner with other organizations completely. It’s good to have a repertoire of things you can offer in lieu of sponsorship, such as to announce it to your email list or to come personally, or help with passing out fliers, securing a venue, etc. Keeping goodwill with a variety of groups is important, and by not sponsoring very partisan events we can keep that goodwill and our bipartisan “cred”.
Know your audience
Research who you are trying to engage with. Look up bios, the history of the organization and its staff to really understand what their mission and goals are. Finding ways that their goals align with CCL’s is a great way to make first contact and to deepen a partnership going forward. Additionally, it may help to speak with other volunteers who have already engaged with a different chapter of the group. While there are huge differences nationally in what each chapter does, it’s always helpful to learn from them. A good way to do this is on Community or to check the Grasstops Engagement Tracker and see if there is any information in there.
Aim to create lasting and respectful relationships
Good listening is as important with liberal groups as with conservatives and members of Congress. Show up and be interested in what they do, learn about them, and answer questions about us. Participate in social networking events like Green Drinks and be strong allies to different groups within your local communities.
The same way we value relationships based on trust, respect and admiration in Congress, we must do the same with other organizations. Along with this is understanding that, although endorsements are wonderful and useful and necessary, sometimes there will be groups and organizations where it’s more important to have a meaningful, trusting relationship over an endorsement for our policy. Just like we wouldn’t go into a MOC’s office and begin bombarding them with facts and numbers about our policy, the same should be true of other groups. Engage with them first and foremost, understand what their issues are, who their members are, and wait to talk policy (unless of course this was the very basis for a meeting/intro).
Want to learn more about how to make a presentation to your targeted audience? Join the CCL Presenters Action Team!